God Shows No Partiality in Christ
W. Mart Thompson, associate professor of practical theology and director of the SMP program, led Concordia Seminary’s Life Team in the following devotion on May 8, 2021.
Acts 10:34–35: So Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Peter says this as the Lord has just impressed upon him that God affirms the lives of all people and all peoples (all the ethnic groups, “all nations”).
At our recent Life Team event, “Affirming Life in All Colors: Helping the Church Face Racism,” Pastor Micah Glenn described how we need to extend our good theological confession—which agrees completely with this passage, extend it into the practice of considering how people talk and act regarding race relations in our LCMS congregations. This devotion continues that conversation.
Our discussion last time included awareness of the impact of racist behavior around us. So, how do we affirm that God and his people show “no partiality” and that all peoples’ lives matter equally while also acknowledging that certain peoples have been treated like their lives are not included in these statements of acceptance? Perhaps, considering the history of slavery and continuing racial prejudice in our country, one does need to find helpful ways of more overtly demonstrating that Black lives really do matter; and yes, so do Asian, Hispanic, Native Americans, Anglos and all others.
Extending the conversation also involves working to root out where possible the effects of sin passed down in people’s unreflective words and actions. As I think back on my days as a youth, I recall how in one phase of life I told any number of “Polack” jokes. My unreflective actions were evident when I later learned the joke was on me because one of my ancestor’s name had been changed from “Casperoski” to “Casper.” I was deriding my own heritage! Or consider that we mocked Asian people’s different eye structure by pulling back the skin by our eyes to make them appear slanted in a less than flattering gesture. Again, such actions later came back on me as I now have a beautiful grandson who is half Korean!
Further, extending the conversation about showing “no partiality” means addressing the hereditary impact of sin on systems and structures of communal life. One might ask, how do we in an increasingly multiethnic society affirm that God shows no partiality by actively transforming the largely monoethnic make-up of our church body, our seminary, and most LCMS congregations?
We are challenged to not only keep the conversation going but also to act, because as Peter learned, “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35).
Thankfully, we can do this through God’s grace. As we are convicted of ethnically prejudiced sins—sins of commission perhaps, but frequently sins of omission, the gospel comes to us and says, “Your Lord accepts you and his impartial love embraces you through the death and resurrection of Christ for you!” As Peter goes on to say, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
Today we will offer a specific prayer to the Lord to help us actively reflect the impartial love of Jesus for all people and peoples, to all races and ethnic groups.
I want to thank my brother, Wondimu Game, from the people of Ethiopia (whose ethnic group predates my European ancestors in Christ’s church). Wondimu gave the suggestion at a recent Life Team meeting that we incorporate focused prayer on particular “life-affirming” issues in our Life Team meetings. As we do so in our weekly seminary chapel services on Tuesdays, we will offer a prayer in the Spirit as a weapon in the spiritual battle of affirming God’s good gift of life.
I also want to include in the prayer a petition thanking God for the gift of scientific research that has produced vaccines to curb the spread of the coronavirus. We pray God’s blessing on our discussion led by Dr. Gibbs regarding the ethical use of scientific research regarding vaccines.
My prayer of thanksgiving for this is inspired in part by a hymn verse that, up until the pandemic I thought of as peculiar more than pertinent and eccentric more than applicable. It’s from verse 5 of “Earth and All Stars,” Lutheran Service Book 817. It goes:
Classrooms and labs! Loud boiling test tubes!
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Let us pray:
Gracious Father, as you showed no partiality in sending your Son to die for ALL people and to freely justify us through his resurrection from the dead, move us to action in graciously accepting all peoples, to demonstrate compassion toward those who have experienced racism and its effects, and to build up community in which all people freely and fairly share life together.
Through the mercy and gift of Christ’s righteousness, heal the wounds of all who have experienced bigoted, prejudiced, and racist behavior. Let them see your impartial acceptance and their true identity as your holy children with whom you are well-pleased through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Lord, in your mercy, HEAR OUR PRAYER.
All-knowing and all-wise Creator, thank you for preserving lives through the gift of human reason and its application in scientific research. Graciously accept our thanks for the development of coronavirus vaccines to curb the spread of the virus and to lessen the pandemic. We ask you to guide researchers and scientists in following ethical procedures that affirm and protect human life while developing these vaccines and others. In all medical procedures that involve human subjects we ask that life be protected and preserved. Bless our reflection and conversion on this topic today.
Until that time when our Lord returns and people from every nation and language share abundantly in the free and impartial grace of their Redeemer; and when sickness and death are no more and everlasting life is enjoyed in its fullness by all of God’s people; through, the same, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.